WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2017 - Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump’s pick to be the next USDA secretary, continues to meet with members of the Senate Agriculture Committee, but there’s still no news on a date for a confirmation hearing, according to Hill aides. Perdue, who has the endorsement of his predecessor Tom Vilsack, is racking up support from Republicans and Democrats.
Perdue met early on with Committee Chairman Pat Roberts on Jan. 19. The former Georgia governor met Monday with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat who Trump reportedly also wanted for the job.
Heitkamp gave the popular governor a thumbs-up and said she’ll support Perdue, who is looking like he may be the least controversial cabinet pick by President Trump.
“After meeting with Gov. Perdue today, I look forward to confirming him to this important post and working with him to get results for North Dakota farmers and ranchers,” Heitkamp said in a statement Monday.
Heitkamp, who met with Trump before the inauguration and was also in the running to be the next USDA chief, said she stressed to Perdue the importance of the 2018 farm bill and lifting trade restrictions on Cuba.
“Farmers and ranchers are the backbone of North Dakota’s economy, so I take this nomination very seriously,” Heitkamp said.
Perdue has not yet met with Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, but aides tell Agri-Pulse that will come soon.
BLM planning rule faces Congress’ axe. The House takes the first step today to kill an overhaul of the way the Bureau of Land Management makes decisions about land use. A rule finalized in the final weeks of the Obama administration allows for making management plans on an ecosystem basis. The House will vote on a resolution that would eliminate the rule. 
Critics say the new planning process would reduce the role of local officials in management decisions and put too much emphasis on environmental issues. 
“Somebody in a special interest group in San Francisco or Washington would have just as much, actually would have more say, in an overall plan than a local county commissioner,” says House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah. 
The Pew Charitable Trusts is waging an uphill effort to preserve the BLM rule. The group says the rule would ensure that “states and counties, scientists, ranchers, hunters and anglers, miners, hikers, boaters, the energy industry, and other users of public lands can know more about what a plan would do and express their hopes and concerns about it."
Pew isn’t alone in its opposition. Seventeen conservation groups have banded together to oppose the resolution.
The resolution, the groups said in a joint letter, “would invalidate a new, collaborative, science-based approach to land use planning that boosts public engagement, improves administrative efficiency, and increases responsiveness in planning on our largest public land system.”
American Sugar Alliance mourns the last cane harvest in Hawaii. The Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company is closing up shop after more than a century, bringing an end – at least for now – to commercial sugar farming and processing in the Aloha state.
The Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company was the last active commercial operation in the 50th state and the industry was sad to see it close down, according to a statement released Monday by the American Sugar Alliance.
Low prices and rising operating costs finally forced the operation to cease, said Chris Benjamin, president and CEO of Alexander & Baldwin, the owner of Hawaiian Commercial.
"The sugar industry has probably been one of the most influential forces in shaping what is the state of Hawaii …“ Baldwin said.

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The state’s sugar farms, he added, were “the catalyst for the immigration of people from many different cultures over the last 150 years that has led to Hawaii really being the most diverse state, ethnically and culturally, in the country."
Roberts and Grassley want assurances from CFTC on data security. Sens. Pat Roberts and Chuck Grassley sent a letter Monday to Acting CFTC Chairman Christopher Giancarlo, asking for a formal briefing on what the agency is doing to improve its internal data security and protect whistleblowers that report problems.
The letter came in response to an Inspector General’s report entitled “Investigation into a Potential Information Technology Security Incident.”
The senators said the report “describes CFTC personnel engaging in inappropriate network activity, abuses of network privileges in violation of CFTC policies, retaliatory acts against a CFTC contractor, and a pervasive lack of candor and integrity by senior CFTC personnel.”
Specifically, Roberts and Grassley are demanding to know what security measures the CFTC has in place, how they are being improved and how the agency is allowing whistleblowers to be mistreated.
(Phil Brasher contributed to this report)